HILO — Although the protesters at Maunakea Access Road have physically changed their position, their philosophical position remains the same as in July.
After an agreement made last week between the protesters and Mayor Harry Kim guaranteeing that no Thirty Meter Telescope construction will happen until at least the end of February, the protesters’ main tent on the access road was moved next to the road, leaving both lanes open to the public.
Since then, protest leader Andre Perez said not much has happened, while Kim said he will have discussions with various parties throughout next week about the next step.
“We’re in a holding pattern right now,” Perez said. “We’re waiting for TMT to see what they’re going to do next.”
The protesters’ main tent — called the kupuna tent, because it houses the protest’s elders, or kupuna — remains occupied, Perez said, with people ready to reoccupy the road should there be a sign that TMT will attempt to ascend the mountain.
Perez and the other protest leaders have stated they will not leave their posts until TMT abandons its plans to build on Maunakea, which the protesters consider sacred. However, Kim is likewise adamant that some arrangement can still be made that satisfies all parties.
“We have to take the opportunity of this quiet period to figure something out,” Kim said. “We can’t go back to how it was before.”
As to the form of that arrangement, Kim said discussions are still ongoing. The mayor will meet with Gov. David Ige on Monday and with TMT representatives later this week to discuss their options.
As part of the agreement between the protesters — who call themselves kia‘i, or protectors of Maunakea — and Kim, the county placed a field of gravel beneath the kupuna tent. Kim said the uneven lava field presented a tripping hazard and was generally unsuitable for supporting a tent.
“I told (the protesters), we’ll do it for you; we can’t allow the private sector to do work up there,” Kim said.
Kim said the county also took the opportunity to carry out minor repairs to the sides and apron of the access road, smoothing out a sharp edge on the side of the asphalt.
The cost of the county work at the access road has not yet been tallied, Kim said. Although the gravel was surplus material from the state Department of Transportation and will therefore not be included in the total cost, he conceded that labor costs must still be accounted for.
Email Michael Brestovansky at email@example.com.